Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Religious Faith Is Good for Families

 





                                                                                  (Cancun)

In The God Delusion religious non-scholar Richard Dawkins claimed that parents who teach their religious beliefs to children are guilty of "child abuse." In The End of Faith Sam Harris declares that religious extremism is "the greatest problem confronting civilization."

Are parents who mentor their children in their faith child abusers, part of the greatest problem confronting civilization? The answer is: No, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of University of Virgina's National Marriage Project. In fact, religious faith is actually good for families. (See The Washington Post, "The latest social science is Wrong. Religion is good for families and kids.")

Bradford's findings include:
  • On average, religion is a clear force for good when it comes to family unity and the welfare of children — the most important aspects of our day-to-day lives.
  • Americans who regularly attend religious services are less likely to cheat on their partners.
  • They are less likely to abuse their partners.
  • They are less likely to divorce.
  • They are more likely to enjoy happier marriages.
  • Religious parents spend more time with their children.
  • Religious teens are more likely to shun lying, cheating, and stealing, and to identify with the Golden Rule.
  • Children from religious families are “rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents,” according to a nationally representative study of more than 16,000 children across the United States.
  • Faith is a net positive when it comes to “prosocial behavior” among American children.
  • Religious parents are also more likely to report praising and hugging their school-aged children.
Wilcox cites the findings of French sociologist Emile Durkheim, who concluded:
  • What makes religion vital, in part, is that it provides rituals, beliefs and a sense of group identity that deepens people’s connections to the moral order. In his words, the faithful “believe in the existence of a moral power to which they are subject and from which they receive what is best in themselves.” (Obviously this is absent in atheism. On the absence of God there is no reason to be moral.)
  • The rituals associated with religion lend meaning to life, including its most difficult moments and seasons — from the loss of a job to the loss of a loved one.
  • Religious rituals encourage us to take our family roles more seriously and to help us deal with the stresses that can otherwise poison family relationships. The norms — from fidelity to forgiveness — taught in America’s houses of worship tend to reinforce the faithful’s commitments to their spouses, family members and children and give them a road map for dealing with the disappointments, anger and conflicts that crop up in all family relationships. And as one of the most powerful sources of social capital outside of the state and workplace today, religious social networks provide support to millions of Americans.
Yes, there are religious families that are unhealthy. (As there are brutal atheistic families.) But, writes Wilcox, "religion in America is not the corrosive influence that it’s often made out to be nowadays. On the contrary, for many Americans, it’s a source of inspiration that redounds not only to their benefit, but also to their families and communities."


***
My two books are:



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

David Gushee's Failed Attempt to Affirm Same-Sex Marriage

 

I recently read David Gushee's Changing Our Minds. Gushee changed his mind about same sex marriage, moving from disaffirming to affirming.

As I went through the book, the one prevailing thought was that - I've read this stuff before. Very little, if anything, was new to me. And, chapters like "Two Odd Little Words" concern arsenokoites and malakoi, which are really not that little, nor odd. Gushee thinks we cannot know the meaning of these words. But scholars like Craig Keener, N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Richard Hays, Michael Brown, and Robert Gagnon disagree.

So does New Testament scholar Preston Sprinkle. Sprinkle writes that arsenokoites should be translated as "men who have sex with men." (See here.)

Sprinkle writes:

"I know that Robert Gagnon has stirred the pot on more than one occasion regarding the question of homosexuality. But the simple fact is: No one has thoroughly refuted his arguments. No one. David Gushee continues to repeat assumptions and arguments that have long been refuted by Gagnon. James Brownson may have challenged a couple points in Gagnon’s work (re: gender complementarity and some other interpretations in Gen 1-2), but even if we say that Brownson is right on these couple points, there are dozens of other exegetical conclusions that he didn’t address or didn’t convincingly refute. (Matthew) Vines didn’t deal very well with Gagnon’s work (didn’t even cite Gagnon in his chapter on 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1) and Justin Lee misrepresented him. And now, David Gushee repeats the error by tip-toeing around Gagnon’s ever-growing scholarly work on the topic.

The fact is, until affirming scholars can actually deal with and refute Gagnon’s arguments, or at least a good portion of them, their view will not be considered as a credible biblical option by those who have studied the (LGBT)  question more broadly. And by relying on previous affirming arguments—ones which have been thoroughly refuted by Gagnon and others—“new” affirming voices are entering the rodeo on a crippled pony."

Gagnon is arguably the New Testament scholar in this area. See his massive The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. (I have it, and have read it.) 

Gagnon has elsewhere written about Gushee's failure to engage, over the texts, with him. See here

In this article Gagnon concludes:

"When did I ever say that I wanted David Gushee to stop following Jesus? I just think that he shouldn't be citing Jesus as justification for shoddy work that deliberately hides from readers the problems with his exegesis of Scripture. Apparently now "intimidation" occurs when one scholar shows the deficiencies of a poorly argued position by another scholar who has the intellectual wherewithal to do much better but refuses to spend even a half hour to investigate the counterarguments. Gushee, like Vines and Justin Lee of the "Gay Christian Network," is an intellectual coward (I'm sorry to say). By that I mean that he deliberately ignores the array of counterarguments to his own ideological position and sometimes even misrepresents the views and credentials of scholars in order to advance that position."

Put Christianity aside, for a moment. Gushee's book is hermeneutically unconvincing. It's just really hard to get the Bible to affirm same sex marriage, when there is not one affirming verse in the entire Bible about this, and while the entire Bible is - like it or not - a heterosexual document that has God affirming marriage as between a man and a woman. For those who have a high view of the Bible's authority, this is important.

Narcissistic Kids and the 7 Deadly Sins

Image result for john piippo narcissism
The River Raisin, in Monroe
The "seven deadly sins" are, writes Jean Twenge, "a succinct summary of the symptoms of narcissism." Twenge writes:

"In his prescient 2001 book, Too Much of a Good Thing, child psychologist Dan Kindlon (Harvard) argued that modern parents too often spoil their children. “Compared to earlier generations, we are emotionally closer to our kids, they confide in us more, we have more fun with them,” he wrote. “But we are too indulgent. We give our kids too much and demand too little of them. I see it in the homes I visit, at the schools where I speak, in the family counseling I’ve done, and in the parents and children I encounter in shopping malls, supermarkets, and video stores.” Kindlon concentrated on upper-middle-class children in his book, but much of the overindulgence he documents seems to be trickling down the socioeconomic ladder. When children are overindulged, Kindlon argues, it leads to outcomes resembling the seven deadly sins: pride, wrath, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, and greed." (Twenge, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, p. 76)

Twenge says that America parents today...

... have become too indulgent...

... praise our children too much...

... and treat our children almost like royalty...

... and buy them t-shirts glorifying their exalted status.

American parents "have innocently made the mistake of idealizing their children instead of truly loving them... We may have veered too far toward obeying our children instead of them obeying us.”

Go to a mall, or a concert, or a movie, and you will find these kids there, in the wild. These are...  

"... the kids who have never been told no, whose sense of power and entitlement leaves onlookers breathless, the sand-kicking, foot-stomping, arm-twisting, wheedling, whining despots whose parents presumably deserve the company of the monsters they, after all, created.”(Twenge, 77)  


***
My two books are


 Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God. 

Leading the Presence-Driven Church


FORGIVENESS - Resources

(Leading the Presence-Driven Church students, Faith Bible Seminary, NYC)

(I am re-posting this.)

Linda and I are always talking with people about forgiveness. Here are  links to things I have written about forgiveness.

We all need it, and need to learn it, and practice it. 

For Jesus-followers, this is the heart and soul of the Gospel. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Welcoming and Sometimes Disaffirming

Image result for john piippo affirm
Worship at Redeemer

(I am re-posting this for X.)

I was asked the question, "Would a Muslim be welcome in your church?"

My answer is: "Yes!"

And Buddhists and Hindus and atheists, too.

I would be thrilled if people of differing beliefs came to my church.

"If a Muslim came and asked you to affirm their belief that Jesus was merely a prophet (and not God the Son), and that Jesus did not die on a cross (the Koran says this), would you affirm this?"

My answer is: "Of course not." And, BTW, the serious, practicing Muslim would not affirm my belief that Jesus died on a cross to atone for the sins of humanity.

What does it mean to "affirm" something, or someone?" From my Christian point of view, I want to affirm what God affirms. As far as I can tell, God does not affirm the following statement: Jesus was only a prophet, and Jesus did not die on a cross.

This being the case, why would I affirm this? And why would anyone expect me to affirm it?

Over the years, as a result of my college philosophy classes, several atheists have checked out my church. When they come, do I welcome them? Yes. I am thrilled they came! Does this mean that I affirm their core belief that There is no God? Of course not. And, I don't expect that, as atheists, they affirm my core belief that There is a God.

Welcome and love people, even enemies? Yes.

Affirm every belief people have? No. To do that is neither loving nor truthful.

Is it loving to welcome but not affirm? Of course. To love someone is not equivalent to affirming every belief they bring with them. That would be disingenuous. I have had a few atheists over the years tell me they respect the fact that I can be gracious towards them while not affirming their beliefs. One atheist looked me square in the eye and said, "I respect you for not affirming my atheism. That's why I am interested in you."

The atheist Christopher Hitchens said the same, and castigated both Christians and atheists who mindlessly and hypocritically affirmed everything, no matter what. (See The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist.)

The philosopher skeptic David Hume said the same. There's the story of Hume getting up at 5 AM to travel to hear George Whitefield preach. Asked if he believed what the preacher preached, he replied, "No, but he does!"

No one affirms everything. Probably, people disaffirm more things than they affirm.

Much depends on a person's worldview. It is within a worldview that affirming and disaffirming find their place. Everyone has a worldview. Even the view that there are no worldviews is a worldview. The question becomes: Is my worldview true? That is, is my worldview the way things really are? This is not the special province of Christians. Everyone believes their worldview represents the way things really are.

Everyone affirms and disaffirms. It is unloving to expect, even force, someone who does not share your worldview to affirm it. But we can try to understand. And then, evaluate. And then, in a civil way, disaffirm. (Unlike life at American universities today, which mostly are disaffirming and not welcoming.)

"Could an atheist teach atheism in your church as something God affirms?" Of course not, for what seem to me to be obvious reasons.

"Could a Muslim be one of your youth leaders and teach your youth that Christ did not die on a cross?" Of course not.

"Would you, John, be allowed to be a youth leader at the Islamic Center of America, and tell Young Muslims that the Koran is wrong, and God is a Trinity of Persons, in One?" Definitely not!

"Could someone teach your people that marriage is not limited to a man and a woman?" No.

"Does that mean you don't love people who have beliefs contrary to the Jesus way?" Of course not!

The idea that we ought to love everyone, even our enemies, finds its most powerful formulation in Christianity.

The idea that we should affirm every belief is unloving, and pop-culture nonsense. If love meant affirming everything people believe, we would love no one, not even ourselves, not even God.


***

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

With Janice Trigg - Encounters with the Holy Spirit  (June 2019) 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Influence

Maumee Bay State Park (Ohio)

As I watched the beautiful twenty-one-minute film with Bono (U2) and Eugene Peterson (The Message, et. al.), and heard Bono speak of how Eugene writings have influenced him (especially The Message and Run With the Horses), I thought of the power of influence. 

Here we have the power of small. 

Peterson is a small man with a capacious heart for God who pastored a relatively small church. 

I want to be like him.

I want to be used by God to influence people. Don't you? 

I want to be part of a community of influence.

 Eugene Peterson has helped me with this. I have slow-cooked through his The Contemplative Pastor at least three times. I see #4 on the horizon. Maybe after I finish reading Run With the Horses. I can't even get past the Preface, because Peterson writes:

"The American church seems to have lost its nerve. Leaders are stepping up to provide strategies of renewal and reform. If the sociologists are right, more and more people are becoming disappointed and disaffected with the church as it is and are increasingly marginalized. The most conspicuous response of the church at this loss of “market share” is to develop more sophisticated consumer approaches, more efficient management techniques. If people are not satisfied, we’ll find a way to woo them back with better publicity and glossier advertising. We’ll repackage church under fresh brand names. Since Americans are the world’s champion consumers, let’s offer the gospel on consumer terms, reinterpreting it as a way to satisfy their addiction to More and Better and Sexier. 
The huge irony is that the more the gospel is offered in consumer terms, the more the consumers are disappointed. The gospel is not a consumer product; it doesn’t satisfy what we think of as our “needs.” The life of Jeremiah is not an American “pursuit of happiness.” It is more like God’s pursuit of Jeremiah." (Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best, Kindle Locations 58-62) 

Wow. 

Everything in me resonates with this. 

Peterson is a crazy, prophetic bearded man typing on a computer overlooking a Montana lake. From his isolation come words for the world. Is anyone listening?

In America, masses of people say they believe in God and are "Christians." But in proportion to their size, their relative influence is miniscule. My college teaching experience and research tell me that "church" is not on the radar screen of most of today's young adults. 

You might be "small" as a person, or "small" as a church ("church"= a community of persons following after Jesus in his Kingdom-mission). There might only be twelve of you. Yet God could use you to influence the world. 

Remember the Twelve.

When I was traveling and teaching in central India I addressed a group of thirty medical students who were Jesus-followers. One of them asked me, "How can you start a revival?" My answer was, and still is: "When revival happens within you, then the revolution has begun." Historically this is how it always happens. Moves of God begin small. They don't happen in mega-situations. (For by far the most part, right?) God could do something in you, right now, that he could use to influence multitudes. 

Remember the mustard seed.

Could a mega-church have influence in proportion to its mega-ness? It's possible, but it would have to be muscular and lean. If a mega-church was the spiritual equivalent of one of the Biggest Losers, then we would have a huge, but flabby and non-influential church. It is a mega-task to maintain such a church with its massive size and massive couch-potato-ness (church with lots of spectators, with more criticism, since non-involvement produces critics). 

Remember the cost of discipleship.

Influence happens underground. God's Kingdom is an underground movement. It is subtle, subversive, revolutionary, and very powerful. This rarely (if ever) happens on TV or the Internet. We spectate and watch "revivals" happen on TV, but televised moves of God are not themselves moves of God (or rarely so). 

Remember the seed growing secretly.

Leadership is influence. Therefore everyone is a leader. Leaders for Christ are led by Christ. Therefore they hang tight with Christ, and the stuff that made for Christ's influence gets into them. 

Remember that we participate in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)

Linda and I were sitting in a Subway, eating lunch together. She had just begun to read Run with the Horses. She said, "John, you have got to see this quote from Peterson, who is quoting William McNamara."

My grievance with contemporary society is with its decrepitude. There are few towering pleasures to allure me, almost no beauty to bewitch me, nothing erotic to arouse me, no intellectual circles or positions to challenge or provoke me, no burgeoning philosophies or theologies and no new art to catch my attention or engage my mind, no arousing political, social, or religious movements to stimulate or excite me. There are no free men to lead me. No saints to inspire me. No sinners sinful enough to either impress me or share my plight. No one human enough to validate the “going” lifestyle. It is hard to linger in that dull world without being dulled. 
I stake the future on the few humble and hearty lovers who seek God passionately in the marvelous, messy world of redeemed and related realities that lie in front of our noses.

"The few." The influencers. I want to be counted among them, don't you?

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Nine Elements of Healthy Relationships - Linda and John Piippo

Linda and I present "Nine Elements of Healthy Relationships." 



Begins at minute 56.

Avoid the Arguer

Torrey Pines, California


"Get away from a man who argues every time he talks."

- Thomas Merton

Do not partner with an argumentative person. 
The argumentative person is not to be your companion. 
Love them, but do not be influenced by them.

Do not enter into the arguments of the argumentative person. 
They are fishing for a fight. 
Don't take their bait.

What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 
You desire but do not have, so you kill.
You covet but you cannot get what you want,
so you quarrel and fight. 

James 4

Relationships in the New Community are not 
like living in a court of law. 
Argue? Yes. Discuss? Debate? Yes. 
Reason together? Of course. 
And always in love. 
Argumentative? No.

Don't go looking for a fight. 
Wage war against the devil, not people. 
If it has flesh and blood, it's not your real enemy.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
For they cannot rest until they do evil;
they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.

Proverbs 4:14-16

More than loving peace, be a peacemaker. 
Lay down your swords. Beat them into plowshares. 
Convert your military weapons into instruments of righteousness and peace. 
Anyone can desire peace. 
Peace-makers are rare, 
are blessed, 
and are called the offspring of God. 

  1. Be at peace with God.
  2. Peace with God brings peace within.
  3. Peace within leads to peace with others.

Or:

  1. Abide in Christ.
  2. Christ gives you his peace, a peace unlike this world gives.
  3. Bring this heart of peace into your flesh-and-blood relationships.
In Christ there is peace (everlastingly so, 
in the Triune Godhead).

You are in Christ.

Fulfill the prayer of Jesus in John 17 to "be one"
with others, as the Son, the Spirit, and the Father are one.

***
My two books are:


Friday, September 25, 2020

Community Is Where Humility and Glory Touch

 




With Al Willingham in Eldoret, Kenya


(For many, COVID has changed this. They want to engage with community, but cannot at this time. This does not change the human need for community, and the fact that the Bible is a community document, not an individuated document. COVID threatens community. This is part of its insidiousness.)


Linda and I have begun our 29th year at Redeemer. We love our church family. And, we love seeing them and being with them on Sunday mornings.

In my 50 years as a Jesus-follower, and our 47 years of marriage, we have never isolated ourselves from the body of Christ. Many of you can say the same, to which I say, "Well done!"

The Real Jesus called forth a community to dwell in and work through, not a bunch of isolated, detached individuals. Call this “church.” Ekklesia

Ek + kaleo. The called-out-by-Christ people of God. 

Effective, Jesus-indwelt community requires individual and corporate humility. Every single person in the totality abandons themselves to the will, and ways, of God. This is Real Church. It’s a Communal Movement. 

I have met community-rejecting Christians who refuse to assemble with other believers. In this, they are biblical and theological apostates, no matter how bad they were treated. They have chosen pride over humility, bitterness over forgiveness, division over reconciliation, and fear over faith. 

If community-despising is in you and you don’t want to let it go, I suggest you not get a praying life. Because if you commit to praying, God will break your heart about this. This will be the initial thing God does for you. This is crucial, because his glory refuses to descend on a proud heart. Rather, God’s glory graces the humble heart. 

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”(James 4:6) God graces and blesses the humble. This is community language. 

How very good and pleasant it is 

when kindred live together in unity! 

It is like the precious oil on the head, 

running down upon the beard, 

on the beard of Aaron, 

running down over the collar of his robes. 

It is like the dew of Hermon, 

which falls on the mountains of Zion. 

For there the LORD ordained his blessing,     

life forevermore. 

 

Psalm 133:1-3


The humble, unified Jesus Community can expect to experience God’s… 
• blessing 
• grace 
• glory 
• presence 
• leading 
• power 
• love 

Fellowship is where a lot of the action happens. Community is where humility and glory touch. Be praying for your Jesus Community, and your place in it.

(From John Piippo, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, Kindle Locations 3145-3171)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

You Can Give to Redeemer...

 


You can give to Redeemer's General Fund by...

Mailing a check to:

Redeemer Fellowship Church

5305 Evergreen

Monroe, MI

48161

Or, bringing your offering on a Sunday morning.

Or, as Linda and I do, giving an offering online. Click here to do that. http://www.redeemerfellowshipchurch.com/giving.html 

Giving to our General Fund goes towards: staff salaries (I don't take a salary), staff health insurance, mortgage, building insurance, missions, church supplies and ministries, janitorial services, lawn mowing, utilities, repairs and building upkeep, and more.

Thank you!

PJ


To Forgive or to Punish?

 

To Forgive or to Punish?

Lake Erie

I love talking about forgiveness, because God has forgiven me of so much over the years. I often think, how could I not forgive someone else when I have been forgiven so mercifully and graciously?

The life of every real Jesus-follower is a life of being forgiven and forgiving others. We are to confess our sins one to another, and then to forgive others if they sin against us. Forgive others, just as you have been forgiven.

To "forgive" mean: to cancel a debt. When you forgive someone you release them from any indebtedness towards you. That's what God has done, in Christ, for you. When you experience God's forgiveness, you don't need to pay anymore. The forgiven person goes free. God's forgiveness provides the ultimate "Get out of jail, free" card.

On the other hand, to withhold forgiveness is to say, "Let the punishment continue." To choose to not forgive someone for what they have done to you is to choose to make them continue paying. Unforgiveness locks the other person in the prison cell and throws away the key. If you refuse to forgive that person who has wounded you or stolen from you or done whatever to do, you administer 40 more lashes of the whip to their back, continuously.

Between forgiveness and unforgiveness there is no middle ground. It's always either freedom or bondage.  Unforgiveness is not a "waiting" thing, like "You will someday face execution for what you have done." Unforgiveness straps the offender into the electric chair now and turns the dial to "high."

When you forgive someone, you set them free. They don't deserve it. But you don't deserve it either. So, because Jesus has forgiven you and released you from your indebtedness to him, who are you not forgive those who have set foot on your ground and violated you?

When you withhold forgiveness, it's not that you order someone else to be punished. You become the Punisher. That says something about you. About your heart. It's a dark heart, gripped by the accuser, that walks in unforgiveness. It's a healed, forgiven, loved-and-loving heart that forgives and sets captives free.

***
My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God is available HERE and as a Kindle book HERE
You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Were You Saved During the Jesus Movement?

 


Were you saved during the Jesus Movement? Or, did you come to spiritual life during the Jesus Movement? Were you deeply affected by it, so that you have never been the same since?

I was.


THE JESUS MOVEMENT PROJECT 2020

During the months of October and November I want to collect testimonies of any who were saved during the Jesus Movement.

Then, I'll publish them in December, one or more a day. (If I get enough!)

GUIDELINES FOR SUBMISSION

2-3 paragraphs at most.

Include your name, and where you now live.

Tell me what you were Before Christ.

Tell me how you were saved, or revived?

Tell me the difference it has made in your life.

I will edit the testimonies, for grammar, syntax, and clarity (if needed).

If this is for you, write your story out and email me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

And, Linda and I recommend, as likely the best book on the Jesus Movement, this: God's Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America

Put on your tie-dye t-shirt and begin to write.

Blessings!


John Piippo


Don't Accept Your Subhumanity

 



Often, when a person fails at something, they say "I'm only human." But from the Jesus POV, this is not true. If one were "only" human, 
truly human, then one would not morally or spiritually fail. People like N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, and Thomas Merton all agree with this.

Wright points to that Sea of Galilee story, when Jesus walks on water and calls to Peter, "Come!" Peter comes, walks for a moment, then falls in. The falling-in is not because he is "only human," but because he is not human. The Jesus who becomes "fully man" (as well as "fully God") walks on water because he is just that. In Jesus we see mere humanity, true humanity.

In his sermon "Dreaming of a White Easter," Wright says that, as dwellers in Christ, "we can really live without being greedy and snatching at power and using other people as objects in your quest for pleasure or prestige." Most of the world has no idea that this is possible. You might as well have snow at Easter. As one of the greatest early Christians put it: it’s ridiculous, and that’s why it’s true. Nobody would have made this stuff up." You and I are meant to be signs to the world who "show the full glory of what human life was meant to be, and to cut across the shallow lies that drag us down and make us, frankly, sub-human." Part of Christ being formed in us (Gal. 4:19) is that his full humanity becomes ours.

Dallas Willard, in "Spiritual Formation: What It Is, and How It Is Done," writes: "Spiritual formation in the tradition of Jesus Christ is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart, which is the same as spirit or will. It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ." What does that look like? Willard refers to 1 Corinthians 13 and writes: "There is a real possibility of looking at I Corinthians 13, for example, and being able to see that the love that is portrayed there can actually come to occupy the human heart. People can really be like that--"Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." People can be like that, not because they do such things, but because agape love has occupied them effectively as a result of their having learned how to receive it into the deepest part of their being."

People can really be like that. To be like that is to be human. This is so huge I can hardly bear it. Arguing by via negativa, if this were not true, than things like 1 Corinthians 13 that speak of such transcendent love are carrots forever dangling before hungry rabbits. The famous "love chapter" then becomes either fiction, or merely descriptive of God, but inapplicable to us, the result being we are forever subhuman.

Merton expresses his longing to transcend subhumanity and ascend to true humanity when he writes: "One cannot remain immobile where the political and aesthetic customs and potentialities are so conspicuous and compelling: one must take another step." These words defined Merton's "personal vocation," which is the vocation of us all; namely, to go beyond the vast limitations of our subhumanity. Merton writes:

"I must - in my writing, in my prayer, in my life - take this further step and go beyond my limitations and the limitations of thought, art and religion of our time. And this requires effort and suffering. I simply cannot sit down and accept my limitations - that is impossible. But I must take care most of all not to be content with merely fanciful transcedence - going beyond my limitations in thought and imagination only. It must be a real transcendence." (A Year With Thomas Merton, Kindle, 5057-5070)

I must be transformed into true humanity. I must transcend the limitations of subhumanity that result in impotent and impoverished living. Our world needs Jesus, and I am called to host his presence. Christ in us. That's the hope of glory. Amazingly, "we are partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1)

"Mere humanity" abides like a branch in a Vine and does the kind of things Jesus did and even more. That is the promise and destiny of every real follower of Jesus.